One of the many great things about running is that it gives me an excuse to travel more. Every time I look into a place I’d like to visit, I check to see if there is a local race. This St. Patrick’s Day weekend was one of those running trips as I was able to travel to Washington DC to run the Rock’ N Roll USA Half Marathon. I’m lucky to have family living in the area and, to help defray some of the travel costs, my cousin and his wife were kind enough to let me stay with them for the weekend.
My weekend started on Friday morning when I left the house a 5:30 AM and began the 8.5 hour trip to Washington DC. This was the first time making that drive solo and it really was a nice drive. I loaded up the phone with podcasts and hit the turn pike.
A couple of days before, I found out that two of my other running friends would be at the race expo as well so we had planned to meet up at 3PM.
At around 2:30 I pulled into the RFK stadium parking lot and headed over to the National Guard Armory where I eventually met up with my friends Liz and Joy.
The Expo was a little smaller than most Disney race expo’s but much larger than some of the local Half Marathon’s I’ve run. Liz and I picked up our bibs and the three of us did a little shopping. It was nice to see runDisney at the expo and even nicer that they were handing our cool bags for us to use.
After the expo we headed into Foggy Bottom and had dinner near the GWU campus. Mediterranean food is wonderful the night before the race and my first day in DC was awesome.
Saturday morning started at 5AM when the alarm went off. The race wasn’t scheduled to start until 7:30 but I wanted to get downtown early to avoid the traffic. I had originally planned on taking the Metro into the city but my cousins were gracious enough to drive me instead so I wouldn’t have to wait at the station by my lonesome self.
The starting line of the race was at 14th and Constitution right next to the Smithsonian Museum of Natural History. It was really cool to have the corrals lined up next to the museum but the corral system they had was a bit different than what I was used to. They numbered the corrals from 1 all the way to 31. The first corral went off at 7:30 with each subsequent corral starting about a minute after the previous one had gone off.
Once we got rolling the course headed down Constitution Avenue, past the White House and the Washington Monument.
In this photo you can see the White house in the background on the right if you look really close. I was late in getting my camera out of the running belt so I missed the good shot.
The Washington monument was great as usual but they were still finishing some rehab work that was necessary due to an earthquake back in 2012.
Once we hit 18th street it was time for a slight detour down Virginia Avenue and then back on to Constitution where we ran past the Lincoln Memorial.
This part of the race was awesome because I was feeling great and there was a ton of scenery to look at. Running past the Lincoln Memorial was incredible and the bands they had playing were really good.
We next did an out and back over the Arlington Memorial bridge which gave me another great view of the city. It also gave me a chance to see Liz when she was coming back from the turnaround as well as many of my fellow Half Fanatic group members.
My favorite moment during the race came when we exited the bridge. There was a band playing by the Lincoln Memorial and the lead guitarist was jamming the guitar solo to “All Along the Watch Tower”. It was so cool hearing that song while running past the Lincoln Memorial.
After this part of the course we headed past the Kennedy Center where the Kennedy Center Honors are held.
Speaking of the Kennedy Center, one of my all-time favorite performances happened there when Heart played Stairway to Heaven back in 2012. Led Zeppelin was being honored that night and the song Heart played gives me goose bumps every time I watch it. Here is a good version of it on YouTube so you can check it out for yourself.
From here we ran up Waterside drive past many of the foreign embassy buildings. This is where we had to run up the most difficult hill on the course. It was a long uphill curve and by the time I got to the top the people around me were exhausted. I was a bit winded but at this point I was actually doing ok.
Just after mile nine we headed down North Capitol Street for almost two miles. This was really cool because the entire time we were on this road we could see the Capitol Building in front of us.
Around mile 12 my calves were really starting to tighten up. I had to abandon my intervals and only run when I could get my legs top stop cramping. This tells me two things:
1. I ran too fast towards the beginning of the race.
2. I need to practice running longer at a faster race pace to get my muscles used to the speed at longer distances.
I eventually made it to the finish line where Joy greeted me with my post-race food! She was a volunteer for the race and it was awesome to see her smiling face at the end.
The expo was large enough to spend a couple hours in but not too crowded. The volunteers were amazing and there were plenty of them out on the course. The Spectators really came out in droves to cheer on the runners. We ran through some areas of the city where college students lived and many of them were standing on the side of the street offering free beer to the runners. Some of them had guitars and were playing as we ran by, and others were just really supportive offering us encouragement when the run was getting tough. There were plenty of water stops and the bands playing on the course were a nice diversion from the pain
There were a couple minor areas for improvement:
1. The race course itself is mostly run on the outskirts of the city. I would have liked to run a little more downtown past some different monuments and tourist attractions.
2. For some reason they were using plastic cups at the waters stations and by the end of the race there were plastic shattered cups all over the road way. This must have been a pain to try and sweep up and it was a bit slippery at times for the runners.
Aside from those minor issues I had a great time at this race and would definitely run it again.